Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
  • Home
  • About
  • Archive
  • Bio Notes
  • Bookshelf
  • Contents
  • Submit
SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

The Leather Flask

by Richard Jones

I bought you in Venice
from a tiny, full-moon flooded shop
in a stormy gray autumn 
when I was young, so young
the acqua alta and fog 
almost made me believe
I could cross a tiny bridge
and disappear forever. . . .
But I didn’t disappear.
I carried you next to my heart for years,
through bitter decades of life
before one summer morning
when the sun was shining,
I stepped into the garden
as I had a million times before
and unscrewed your cap—
lifting my hand high 
in a wordless toast—
and very slowly poured you out.
The day hot, the sun high,
the flask was a fountain,
the golden whiskey sweetly 
fragrant as it soaked into the earth.
After, I kept you in a drawer
beneath my softest sweater,
safe with the poems I show to no one.
Then one of those wretched days came:
the sun dark, the moon broken.
I brought you forth again—
handsome leather flask from Venice!—
and carried your emptiness to my study
where I placed you, regal and royal,
on a gold stand on the bookshelf, 
honored and remembered among the lucid tomes.
Now you stay with me always,
your leather armor protecting an empty vessel of glass. 
And the little gold cup from which I once drank
shines each time I turn on my reading lamp,
reflecting the light and reminding me 
how much I have yet to learn 
about mystery and doom, peril and freedom.


SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Richard Jones

is an American poet and editor. He is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently The Correct Spelling & Exact Meaning (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), as well as seven limited edition volumes, including King of Hearts (Adastra Press, 2016). His first collection, Country of Air (Copper Canyon Press), won the Posner Award in 1986. The Blessing: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press), received the Midland Authors Award for Poetry for 2000. His work can be found in the anthologies Poetry 180 (edited by Billy Collins, 2003), Good Poems (edited by Garrison Keillor, 2003), and Bearing the Mystery (edited by Gregory Wolfe).

Editor of the literary journal Poetry East and its many anthologies—such as Paris, Origins, Bliss, and Who Are the Rich and Where Do They Live?—Jones also edits the free worldwide poetry app, “The Poet’s Almanac,” available at the App Store.

Jones is a professor of English at DePaul University in Chicago, where he has taught since 1987. His new book, Stranger on Earth, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in spring/summer 2018. Find more information about the poet at:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury